Rob Casey is the owner of Salmon Bay Paddle in Seattle and is the author of two paddling guides.

Friday, November 7, 2014

7 Tips for Keeping a Paddling Biz Open in Winter

Most paddling and surfing shops here in the Pacific NW have either shut down for the winter or are on limited hours.  Now that its getting dark at 5pm, it's impossible to hold evening classes. But when there is daylight, many experienced paddlers are still going.  Seeing this a few years ago I realized I may be able to convince my students to continue their paddling 'season' throughout the year.  I have to do a lot of convincing but when they see the light per se, they're hooked on off season paddling.  Obviously if you're in some places in North America or otherwise, frozen lakes and rivers will prevent from any water time!

Here's a few tips to getting folks paddling in winter.  

- Convince folks that paddling from your local waters in winter is as fun as going skiing.  I love skiing but here it's over $100 per trip these days, a 2-4 hour one way drive and just as cold and wet as paddling.  Infact you wear more clothing to ski.  No lines to get to the beach.

- Last year I had a few folks out thanks to a poor ski season.  But since I didn't have super warm booties I lost a few who got cold.  Very important to have toasty wetsuits (or drysuits), booties, gloves and hoods.  A vest style PFD builds core temps. Get suits that are 5/4mm, 5/4/3, 7mm booties, fleece lined gloves and hoods. If you're from Hawaii you'll think we're crazy. I say, if you're not surfing, no matter where you are - you're crazy. Read my article on how to choose a wetsuit.

- Keep a 1-2 gallon container of hot water in your car to pour over you and friends when done.

- Provide foam camping pads to stand on in the parking lot when changing or hanging out.  I cut up old camping pads.

- Scout out a great pub or cafe to visit after your paddle for a beer and/or hot soup, etc.

- Provide indoor pool paddling sessions - yoga, basics, rescue practice.

- Offer winter season sports in addition to paddling - surfing, wind sports and yes, snow ports.

Read my article on 30 Tips for Cold Weather Paddling in SUP Magazine, 2010

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Cool Deck Bag for SUPs or Kayaks

Most SUP'ers get into the sport because they want to do things simply. Many paddlers we see have a board, paddle and bikini or swimming trunks, not much else.  But the Pacific Northwest packs a surprise every sunny summer afternoon. At noon or sometime thereafter the high pressure rolls in creating a strong North wind.  In a few hours the fetch has created waves up to waist high. If you fall in, which most do lacking skills, the wind will make you chilly.

Solution? You can put bungies on your board and stuff in a synthetic warm layer or rash guard, or get a deck bag.  Deck bags are commonly seen on kayaks and work great on SUPs. Many are waterproof so your gear will be dry when you put it on.  Or if you get too hot, you have a place to put your gear vs trying it aroung your waist or putting it on your deck and fighting to keep it there.

I particuliarly like the Seattle Sports Parabolic Deck Bag.  Admittantly the fifth plastic clip on the end of the bag was my idea and I was stoked that they added it.  If that end of the bag is facing the nose of the board, when wave wash over the bag doesn't flip up, which can throw your forward.  The bag is waterproof, has daisy chain fabric on top to tie more stuff down and has bungy on top to strap a water bottle (we've done 3 at once) or extra clothing down.  We also use the bag on shore to store snacks and a first aid kit for surfing classes.

Note: When I give reviews it's the real mccoy.  I used to do reviews for magazines but the products were also their advertisers so nothing negative was printed.  

Product Link: Here

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Kayak Retrofit Update

In late summer, I asked my neighbor Todd, a Werner/Jackson pro kayak fisherman and kayak/sup repair guy, to cut the top off my $4k sea kayak.  Focused mainly on sup since 2010, I've been wanting to take the kayak out but haven't kept my eskimo rolling skills up to par.  Generally not an issue but I like rough water, so it's essential to have good self rescue skills. Unlike a SUP, you can't just jump back on a closed deck kayak - or at least I can't having long legs at 6'-5".

Long story, Todd agreed and the cockpit top was removed by the time we got back from dinner.  Todd  then steamed oak ribs and made a skeleton frame to lay inside the hull of the boat as a stiffener.  He then filled the remaining space with blow-in foam, then carved it out to fit the contours of my body for sitting.  Fiberglass and epoxy was added, then leash plus on the sides of the cockpit to attach thigh straps for control and rolling if needed.

I've tested the boat several times and have to say I'm having a blast.  I'm an open deck sort of guy whether on a SUP, wave ski, surf ski or kayak.  Next up is raising the cockpit below my knees to better separate out the water wells of the seat and feet. We carved out too much under my knees so since we won't be adding a scupper to remove water while underway, it's best to leave as little areas as possible for water to collect.  Then Todd will spray gel coat to protect the fiberglass and make it prettier (note gnarly fiberglass look now).

The boat did add weight with the blow foam and fiberglass.  Certainly the smartest way to do this is to create a mould of the seating area leaving the space underneath hollow or fill it with 1lb foam.  Or buy a whole new boat.  I didn't have the funds so this was our answer.  And shipping a performance sit on top sea kayak to the US from the manufacturers in South Africa and Australia would've cost more than retrofit.  Plus I like the Illusion hull.

Need kayak or SUP repairs? Contact Todd at Specialized Kayak, 206.229.3764

Almost done. Gel coat next.

Adding leash plugs for thigh straps

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Paddlers Guide to Storing SUP Gear in your Car

Storing gear in your car can be tricky and lead to not find things easily. A wet wetsuit or adjustable paddle can drip and get  your dry clothes wet after a surf session.  Watch this video get some ideas on how to store gear easier.  The video also shows how to wrangle multiple paddles and store one piece paddles safely in your car

Watch the video.

Gear I use to store gear in my car, plus a few extras:

- Bungy tie-down for multiple paddles - Found at West Marine but I couldn't find the product title on their website. Any bungy with hooks will do.

- Oh shit bar bunny - Any bungy with hooks will work. Velcro strips can be useful too.

- Plastic bucket - I like something durable as I carry a lot of gear in the bucket especially for classes and often take it out and drop it when heavy on the pavement.  I've been through a few.

- Rubber mat to stand on - I use a piece of a closed cell foam camping pad. They can be purchased from outdoor stores or found at Value Village type stores.  Alternatives include standing on a towel, inflatable camping pad and some stand in their bucket while removing their wet clothing.

- Under my floor mat I have extra fins, leashes, fin screws, foil tape, my books, common tools and other items I regularly use when teaching on the road.

- When cold, I'll bring along a 2 gallon container of hot water to wash off after a session. Some wrap their wetsuits around their containers to keep it warm when not in use.

Search this blog for more car tips - Racks, loading gear, lifting boards, etc.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Safety Gear Tips for Paddling Trips, Rough Water and Instructors

Whether you're a paddling instructor, solo paddler or like to play in rough water offshore, being prepared means you'll have more fun and be better prepared if something goes wrong to you, a friend or a student.

Here's a few items I carry on me for a variety of paddling conditions both personally and as an instructor.  I vary the list of items depending on the type of water and/or paddling I'm doing. Everything can be stuffed in a small dry bag, can be carried in a waist mounted fanny bag and smaller bunches can be stored in a vest style life jacket.

Watch Video describing all the items and how to pack into dry bags.

Dry Bags..
I use SealLine, Outdoor Research and Seattle Sports bags. Seattle Sports has a few deck bags which are waterproof and can fit easily on my SUPs or kayak decks with proper outfitting.  I tend to double dry bag my items as dry bags can leak and some get condensation. I prefer bags with a daisy chain to attach with straps if securing directly to my board's outfitting.

Bag Contents..

Tool Kit:
- Extra fin screws
- Hex screw driver for thruster fins
- Multi-tool
- Foil tape for ding repairs. Sticks on when wet. Can double as an emergency reflector.
- Bungy and rope - For deck outfitting repair and PFD repair.
- Electrical tape - for PFD repair and other misc repairs.
- Super glue - Great for ding repair and can be used to close wounds (original use).

First Aid:
- Glucose - Energy bars and for diabetic emergencies, tube of cake frosting.
- Personal and student prescriptions. I store my migraine medicine in a waterproof box with silica gels.
- Neosporin for barnacle and coral cuts, open wounds, etc.
- Band aids for land use and duct tape to close wounds while on-water.
- Advil and Aspirin.
- Sunblock and/or zinc face cream.
- Electrolyte for dehydration. (not pictured)
- Chemical heat packets for warmth.
- CPR face shield.
*Students/Friends who are allergic to bee stings should bring their own epi-pen. You can carry their epi-pen to keep dry on-water but can't by law carry extra pens for friends/students on your own.  It's recommended that if an epi-pen is forgotten on shore that the person stays as well.

Safety / Rescue:
- Mylar thermal blanket for hypothermia. Also doubles as a bivy for sleeping bags.
- Rocket flares for signaling in an emergency. Sound extreme? I've used them in a rescues.
- Waterproof light for low light or night paddling. Keep in string if in PFD.
- Neoprene or similar hood to keep students warm.
- Mobile phone in a waterproof case attached to string.
- VHF radio attached to string.  ICOM makes a floating waterproof handheld VHF.
- Whistle (no bead inside).  Attach to PFD.
- Multi-Tool (listed above).
- Tow System for towing people to shore (or to rescue you).  Not pictured. We use NorthWater systems.

For remote areas:
- Spot Beacon or similar devices are a great solution to alerting emergency officials in case of an emergency evacuation.
- Solar re-chargers for communication devices.

Lifejacket (PFD):
Get one with external pockets to store stuff.  I use two from MTI which have adequate pockets but not so bulky they get in my way when paddling or climbing back on my board or boat. One has a quick release system to release a waist mounted leash or tow system in a hurry. Some CO2 life jackets have pockets for storage. A friend slides on a SealLine waterproof bag about 5" long onto his Co2 PFD waist belt to store his GoPro for boogie boarding freighter waves in Seattle.

Search this blog for more info on:
- Communication devices and Float Plan devices.
- Tow Systems.
- Choosing a wetsuit.
- Something you want to know more about? Give me a holler.

Overall bag contents

Seattle Sports bag on 11-6 board

Thursday, October 23, 2014

How to Figure out Surfing Forecasts, a Brief Tutorial

I surf on the Strait of Juan de Fuca, a section of water that connects the Pacific Ocean with Puget Sound near Seattle.  It's an indirect link to the ocean, thus requires a funky forecast that skunks even the most experienced surfers.  Once you think you've figured it out, you get skunked or you get the best session of your life but had expected nothing.  Understanding surf forecasts can be very complicated but here's an attempt of explaining it, sorta, in brief..

Basic Terms -
-Period - Space between each wave crest (or wave top)
-Direction - The direction the Swell or wave is going, so West or East. Also listed as a compass direction such as 290 degrees.
-Wave Height - Height of swell (unbroken wave) coming in. 
-Wind Direction - West wind means the direction the wind is coming from (or Westerly).
-Tides - Each surf spot has a specific type of wave in ideal conditions at a certain tide level. Wind direction and speed can alter that effect.  
-Currents - Many surf spots are directly affected by longshore (parallel to beach) or outgoing current. Some places like the Strait list current speeds and direction.  Many miss this detail. 
-Wave sizing: Varies per region, some go by Waist high, overhead, double overhead.  

Beach & Wave Preferences - Some beaches only break at a specific tide, wave size/direction and wind speed. And some have a variety of wave types and each person may be seeking a favorable type of wave produced by specific conditions. For example I like a high tide at a location for a certain type of wave I like but a friend prefers a barrel wave which is produced at the same location at low tides.  

You'll find out what you like by going several times to a specific location.  In time you figure out the personality of that beach, how wind and waves work there and the type of wave that beach produces at varying different conditons.  

Wave Forecast Issues - I mentioned the funky forecasting issues we have here.  Many use online forecasting tools such as Magic Seaweed, NOAA, Surfline or StormSurf.  They're all good but not always 100% correct. Only NOAA lists the Strait specifically. Many think that the forecast on the sites is 100% correct - but it's a forecast which is just a prediction. Friends come home from surf trips pissed that Magic Seaweed skunked them again.  Truth is, you have to use a cross section of each to get an idea whats going to happen, then make the decision if its worth driving 3 hours from Seattle.  My rule of thumb is if it looks 80% good, I'll go and see what I get.  But I'm easy, I can surf any size and be happy. A few friends require only overhead waves to be satisfied.  

Today's forecast of the Strait varies widely per tool.  NOAA says 8' west swell, 5-25kt NE wind rising to 30kt NE winds later in the day, 12 seconds.  Magic Seaweed says 4' west swell, 12-15 NE winds and 12-13 sec period, 3 star.  Hmm... Magic says medium winds, NOAA says gale force winds.  

I know many follow Magic and similar sites because if they have rumored to have a great forecast our beaches get crowded and I see tons of cars with boards on top - and either great or no waves.  

What is Big or Small?  Usually I'll surf a big wave session, come home and post it on Facebook.  There's usually one or two people who feel that my version of big is just a bump, or 'that's not a wave!' Ya whatever.  It IS a wave.  But for some big is Mavericks or Jaws.  Small is 6'.  Make sure you know what work for you and what your friends translate size to before you go.  As a beginner go for 2-4'.  Some say those aren't waves but you'll scare a beginner and they'll never go again if you insist that those are too small.  

Hazards at our Beaches - As fun as surfing is it can be dangerous quick if you're not paying attention.  Biggest hazards we have are offshore wind, which pushes from the beach out to sea and can push unsuspecting surfers out into bigger waves.  Even breaks by little creeks can create enough outgoing current to send you to China. Watch your position - keep yourself in a little box to stay close to the beach. You can be a hazard. If new to surfing, keep a good distance from others until you can control your craft.  SUPs with a leash means a roughly 20' radius around your board when you wipe out.  We don't get much localism but there area few dorks at every beach who occasionally will give your some flack, usually if you're not riding their exact board size. I usually ignore or get some distance from them. Life's too short - I'm surfing today.  

There's many more conditions which I can't fit here, so check out my SUP book for a whole chapter on wind, waves, beach types, surfing terminology, hazards, people issues, gear, etc.  Even if you're a kayaker or traditional surfer the chapter is pretty detailed for all surfers.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

10 Tips for Better Wind Paddling

10 Tips for Paddling in Wind
With Autumn in full force, we've already experienced strong wind, rain and dropped temperatures.  Many have put up their boards till Spring, while others are stoked to get into the changing conditions. This is prime Downwinding season. Here's 4 tips to help you paddle in wind more efficiently and thus have more fun.

1. Look for the Lee to paddle upwind.  The 'Lee' are sections that are protected from the wind. Behind hills, docks and other obstructions which create areas of calm water. Paddling a curvy path is easier than in a straight line to your destination. Lee are similar to an eddy in a river.

2. Use short quick strokes to paddle upwind taking the blade out at your toes or sooner. Longer strokes mean you'll be pushed back on the recovery.  

3. Bend over at your waist and drop your head to reduce your footprint when paddling upwind.  

4. Wear bright colors so you can be seen and you can see your friends. (see pic).

5. Wear your leash.  Losing a board in wind is very easy.  

6. Feather your blade on the recovery and keep the blade as close to the surface as possible to reduce drag going upwind. 

7. Keep your buddies close.  Wind, current and surfing waves can separate you from your friends very quickly. Last Spring a few guys landed at their cars after a downwind run only to notice they were short one guy. Meanwhile he was swimming 3 miles back to shore in 30kt winds from not wearing a leash. This happened again off Maui with a 2 mile swim by a paddler in September this year.

8. Use wind to your advantage when going downwind. Instead of paddling for power only, use your body and flat part of your blade as a sail. 

9. A Southerly means the wind is coming from the South. Common winds in Seattle are NE, SE and SW. Each section of the Sound has a different wind pattern. If it's SE in Seattle it could be W in Port Angeles. Use a real time wind forecast app like SailFlow or WindAlert. 

10. Take a Downwind and/or rough water class. The more you know the more safer you'll be while having more fun. We offer a Downwind class in Seattle. Also check out Art Aquino in Seattle. If in Oahu check out Blue Planet Surf; on Maui, Paddle with Riggs